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Streetball heroes treated like rock stars – QNS.com

Streetball heroes treated like rock stars

In every city the &#8220And 1 Mix Tape” tour visits, they play in front of thousands of adoring fans at professional basketball arenas. They also stop by local playgrounds. They're treated like rock stars at these venues for good reason - they're the former streetball heroes that have, at least in part, made streetball so popular.
And 1, which claims to have the best players not in the NBA, capped off its seventh summer tour in New York City last week, with a game at Madison Square Garden and a visit to O'Connell Park in St. Albans.
This stop on the tour was unlike many others. There were the adoring fans and aspiring ballers, hoping to emulate their And 1 heroes, but for two of the And 1'ers - Troy Jackson and Rafer Alston - it was a reunion, a flashback to the 90's, when they ran the local courts they were now signing autographs on.
&#8220Everything I am is from this park,” said Jackson, the younger brother of Mark Jackson, the former St. John's University and New York Knicks point guard. Jackson, at 6-foot-10, 315 Pounds, is better known to his fans as Escalade, the nickname he was given back in 1997 for dunking and knocking over an opponent on the famed Rucker streetball courts in Harlem. &#8220I lived a block away, not even a full block. I grew up around here. It's good to be home.”
&#8220I played with a lot of their parents and fathers,” added Alston, aka Skip to My Lou, of the many youngsters on hand.
Jamel &#8220Squeak” Jackson, 30, a local streetball legend from Jamaica, on hand said he never doubted Alston's wizardry with a basketball. &#8220I always knew what he (Alston) was going to be,” he said. &#8220He was in a class by himself. … I'd get a rebound, give it to him and just want to watch.”
Alston, although he is no longer an official member of And 1, still plays with them on occasion. But the former Cardozo guard now plays the rudimentary game in the NBA with the Houston Rockets. Alston is the reason the Tour began in the first place. And 1 was just a sneaker and t-shirt company at first, until Cardozo Coach Ron Naclerio submitted a tape of Alston's finest dribbling moves, including the high-steeping, galloping dribble, sans the nickname. The idea took off, first in selling the mix tapes, and then the tour, which travels to 25 different cities in the United States.
&#8220It's something different,” Alston said, &#8220and that's why people like it so much. I remember days playing in the park, we'd have 10, 15 thousand people watching us perform and now they're in arenas doing it.”
Their success, to some degree, has to do with the local visits, like this, And 1 makes within various intercity communities. &#8220NBA stars ain't coming into your neighborhood,” Jackson said. &#8220We're accessible. I'm right here in the ‘hood.”
Jackson, unlike Alston, didn't have the natural ability to play in The League, as he called it. He earned a scholarship to Louisville in the mid 90's, spending time with the Harlem Globetrotters and playing pro in China and the Dominican Republic. He finally joined the Tour in 2002 - one of the best decisions he's ever made.
&#8220Everybody that has ever touched the ball has dreamed about playing in the NBA,” he said, &#8220but this is a heck of a consolation prize. I love what I'm doing.”

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